COVID-19 emergency hours of service declaration allowed to expire

Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Oct. 17, 2022:

FMCSA lets COVID hours of service waiver expire

The COVID-19 hours-of-service emergency declaration allowing haulers of certain commodities to operate outside the normal hours of service since March 2020 has expired.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allowed the declaration to lapse on Saturday, Oct. 15. The agency last extended the waiver at the end of August, but only for 45 days rather than the 90-day extensions that have been common since the onset of the pandemic.

During a brief comment period last month in which FMCSA sought industry feedback on the ongoing use of the waiver by motor carriers, trucking organizations and drivers were generally split on whether it should continue or not.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said it believed the safety exhibited by carriers using the waiver should open the door for more flexibility in the hours of service going forward. A number of individual drivers also noted that the added flexibility when hauling certain COVID-related loads allowed them to drive when rested and rest when tired, rather than having to abide by a strict clock.

The American Trucking Associations and safety advocate group the Truck Safety Coalition both said it was time for the declaration to come to an end. ATA said some of its members were concerned that the declaration was being used to abuse the regulations. TSC cited the “deplorable state of roadway safety” as a reason to end the waiver.

Almost a third of Overdrive readers earlier this year reported continued use of the waiver.

FMCSA has also taken down its web page dedicated to various COVID-19 resources, including HOS and CDL waivers. In the section of the agency's emergency declarations page dedicated to federally-issued declarations, it now reads, "There are no active Emergency Declarations at this time."

Virginia rep intros bill to repeal entry-level driver training rule

Congressman Bob Good (R-Virginia) earlier this month introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the FMCSA’s Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule that took effect in February.

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Good said the bill, titled the Trucking Workforce Improvement Act, would repeal “a new burdensome federal regulation on training for a commercial driver’s license.”

The ELDT final rule was published in December 2016 and, after implementation was delayed until February 2022, established minimum training standards for new CDL applicants.

[Related: With FMCSA's new regs looming, old-school training ways survive]

“Our farmers and manufacturers need to move their products to market, but they are facing a shortage in the trucking industry,” Good said. “The last thing Washington should do in this national shortage is impose more regulations that make it harder to find new drivers.”

Good added that instead of focusing on “rebuilding the economy and putting Americans back to work,” the Biden Administration is instead “piling on unnecessary burdens and costs on jobseekers.”

Good added that the ELDT “will only deter qualified candidates, who need jobs quickly, from applying for these essential trucking positions,” adding that his bill “will remove these unnecessary regulations and put qualified applicants on the fast track to securing much-needed, well-paid jobs.”

Good’s bill follows a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate last month that would allow small fleets with nine CDL holders or fewer to skip the Entry-Level Driver Training requirement by allowing states to issue a new "Small Business Restricted CDL."

[Related: 'Unpopular opinions' on the Entry Level Training regs newly in effect]

Certain I-10 on-, off-ramps closed near Phoenix

Drivers who normally use the westbound I-10 off- and on-ramps at Watson Road in Buckeye, Arizona, just west of Phoenix, will need to use detour routes for several weeks due to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s ongoing freeway widening project in the West Valley.

The westbound I-10 off- and on-ramps at Watson Road were closed late Friday night, Oct. 14, and are scheduled to remain closed until late November for reconstruction work.

The ramps are being reconstructed for crews to build a new diverging diamond interchange at I-10 and Watson Road, something that already has been done at the nearby Miller Road connections to the freeway in Buckeye.

Drivers should consider using the following detours while the westbound ramps at Watson Road are closed:

  • To exit westbound I-10: Drivers can exit at Miller Road and turn at that interchange before entering eastbound I-10 in order to exit at Watson Road.
  • To enter westbound I-10: Drivers on Watson Road can enter eastbound I-10 and exit at Verrado Way and turn at that interchange to enter westbound I-10.

The ramp reconstruction work is part of an $82 million project to widen I-10 to three lanes in both directions between Verrado Way and State Route 85. The entire project is scheduled for completion in summer 2023. 

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